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dress code for women

San Diego...
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dress code for women

Can anyone advise on what would be a proper & respectful way of dressing for a woman in her 20s visiting Syria later this summer? Also, I'm training for a marathon and have to complete several long runs during my stay - would it be inappropriate to go for runs in Damascus in work-out clothing (t-shirt & running shorts)?

Thanks

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Syria
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Middle East
Pretoria, South...
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1. Re: dress code for women

Hi,

Summer time in Damascus is quite hot, anything from 39 degrees and up. I can suggest light cotton clothing, slacks, Bermuda shorts T Shirts etc.

Syria is quite laid back with regards to clothing in the cities but when going to vilagesor the country side wear a blouse/T shirt with Short Sleeves and knee length slacks/Bermudasetc. When Entering a mosque it is required to cover up, but most mosques have appropropriate clothing available for tourists.

Maybe a light track suit ppants over the running shorts would be recommended for marathon practice!

Maybe there are ladies in the forum with experience who could also advice you

Have a good stay in Syria

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Ann Arbor, MI
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2. Re: dress code for women

Hi--

I am in your *exact* position--I too am training for a marathon and I am heading to Syria later in the summer (crazy!). Having traveled to the Middle East in the past, I can advise you that you will need to cover your arms and legs, avoid deep V-necks, and be cautious about exposing lower back skin (e.g. when you sit down or lean forward, your shirt should not ride up). Skirts above the ankle are best avoided. What has worked well for me in the past is a tank top with a long-sleeved shirt over it--this gives you some breeze in the heat. Not terribly fashionable, but better than the alternative. I went to Kuwait, so the rules may not be exactly the same in Syria, but it is better to be over- than under-dressed, definitely, and I am told my my Syrian traveling companion that Syrians are still very conservative with regard to dress.

In terms of the marathon training, I will tell you from experience that this is next to impossible. You *cannot* run outside in shorts and a T-shirt, and it's definitely too hot during most of the day to run anyway, not to mention the incredible dust that pervades the entire region. I ended up having to run on a treadmill, and often having to break up my long runs somewhat (annoying, but 18 miles on a treadmill is a killer!). That said, it is well worth the trip. The Middle East is lovely.

Hope this helps!

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San Diego...
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3. Re: dress code for women

thanks for your comments!

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4. Re: dress code for women

I yesterday returned from Damascus and can advise you that you certainly do not need to bear in mind the comments of the second respondent to your question, i.e. wear ankle-length skirts, etc. In today's Damascus you will see women wearing absolutely everything -- from knee-length Bermudas with a sleeveless t-shirt, to those who wear an abayya, full face guard, and black gloves. You will see older ladies wearing a long coat and scarf, others with a mid-calf length skirt and a light scarf, and yet others sporting a loose blouse over a pair of slacks and no scarf. Younger women might wear jeans or trousers with a dress over the pants (the sort of figure-hugging dresses that are in all of the shops this summer), topped off with a matching scarf, but in many parts of town you'll come across girls wearing cropped pants (i.e. above the ankle) or a knee-length skirt, and strappy tops that leave their shoulders and neck quite visible. What is for sure is that even for many girls who wear a longish dress or shirt over pants and a scarf, everything has to match and everything needs to be bright and colourful! Lots of make-up is also de rigeur, as well as jewellery (Damascus is extremely safe so you don't need to worry in the least about being robbed if you pile on your jewellery). In the top-end hotels and the wealthy areas of Damascus you can certainly get away with the aforementioned cropped pants and strappy top; if you're venturing into more conservative areas I'd suggest boot-cut jeans with a long-sleeved blouse done up to within one or two buttons of the chin. This sort of apparel will also not raise any comments or eyebrows in the souks. You can make a pair of nice jeans or linen trousers combine with a pretty fitted shirt (bright colours, maybe with some embroidery or gold buttons to make your statement!) and some eye-catching jewellery and look very fashionable as well as being covered up. (A tip: as fitted blouses and shirts tend to gape at the button that is across the bust, when you're putting on the shirt use two safety pins to hold the button placket together on the inside.) Make sure that your clothes are linen or cotton as it's very hot all through summer -- except at night. If you visit the Omayyad mosque, for example, you can borrow a cloak with a hood from the entrance to the left of the main door (plenty of Syrian women have to do this as they're not covered up enough for a mosque visit either!). If you go up to places like Safita in the mountains you will see no women wearing scarves at all, and all the local girls wear tiny mini-skirts and strappy tops (as well as bikinis by the hotel swimming pool!). This out of town location would also be cooler for you to do your running! Remember, though, that a woman running alone in the city, or anywhere else, is going to attract a great deal of attention -- probably mostly from people who are puzzled as to what you are doing. Ask at your hotel, or ask friends, if there is a place in which you can run during the cool evenings where you won't become the neighbourhood spectacle. As the first person to reply to you noted, avoid the short shorts and wear light tracksuit pants, perhaps with a light cotton long-sleeved tee.

You won't need to cover you head unless you go into a mosque, but you might like to take a sun hat with you to ward off the powerful rays. A light-coloured umbrella is also useful as a parasol.

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Ann Arbor, MI
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5. Re: dress code for women

Having now returned from my 6 weeks in Syria and Lebanon, I can say without any reservation that I fear the previous poster and I had somewhat different experiences. The concerns raised by the first poster (and me) regarding attitudes toward women are indeed valid. I was fortunate enough to be staying with a well-off Syrian family, and thus did not have to stay in hotels, walk, or take taxis often. When I went running, I had to wear long pants and long sleeves, and even so, had to limit myself to certain areas for fear of harassment given the conservative attitudes which predominate. I was harassed (verbally) when wearing cropped pants while running, as well as for not covering my hair adequately. On Friday mornings, if I was running by a mosque, the verbal harassment was horrendous, even if I was on the other side of the street (apparently getting too close to a female is prohibited before prayers, as my host explained--but across the street??). I did not see young women wearing anything even remotely revealing except at private parties, certainly not in public. Lebanon is far more open, and people dress in a more revealing manner, but still well. You can definitely run in shorts and a T shirt there, but in Syria I had quite a few problems, even in a long T shirt and long running pants. Overall I had a great time and would recommend the trips for anyone, but I stand by original packing advice.

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Jackson, Michigan
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6. Re: dress code for women

http://www.dvorak.org/blog/?p=9938

Looks like they take it very serious.

Ann Arbor, MI
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7. Re: dress code for women

Well, it's not quite *that* bad.....but I had a bodyguard with me for my runs, and even so I was the target of unwanted attention because of my dress (which was very conservative by Western standards).

To reiterate--Syria is a wonderful country to visit, but tourists should be aware of the cultural values there (as anywhere), so as not to offend (or make one's own visit unpleasant).

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NYC
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8. Re: dress code for women

I am going to Syria next week and I am so confused as to what to pack. I have read such mixed reports from long to short skirts to sleeves. What is the right answer? Can I wear knee length skirts and short sleeves? Will I cause discomfort in that attire? Please help. Has anyone been recently? We are going to Palmyra, Aleppo and Damascus.

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Wiltshire
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9. Re: dress code for women

In Damascus itself, local women wear anything from mini skirts to Abbayas and nobody seems remotely fazed by what any women wear. If you go outside the city into more rural areas, then just like anywhere else, they tend to be more conservative, so don't wear shorts! Nobody, though seemed to have a problem with bare arms. I must admit, though, that as with most Male dominated societies, it is much easier to travel with a man.

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Aleppo, Syria
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10. Re: dress code for women

Hi,

Am Belgian living in Syria near Aleppo.

Just want to tell you that Quentin1's report on dressing is correct.

The experience of the runner is most probably also true, but I'm not sure about the reason why it happened. Syrians do not tend to be agressive when foreign women do not dress according to their personal conservative expectations. They most probably will stare.

I can also confirm that running during the Summer is not adviceable. Now, the weather is nice. After a while, it will be cold. Winter will start somewhere in December most probably.

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